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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 April 2007, 09:34 GMT 10:34 UK
Burma, North Korea restore ties
Shwedagon pagoda
Ties were cut after a bombing near Rangoon's Shwedagon pagoda
Burma and North Korea, two of the world's most isolated nations, have agreed to restore diplomatic relations after a break of more than 20 years.

The nations' deputy foreign ministers signed the deal in Rangoon.

Burma broke ties in 1983, accusing Pyongyang of a bomb attack when South Korea's president visited Rangoon.

Many Western nations accuse Burma's military junta of widespread rights abuses while North Korea has faced sanctions over its nuclear programme.

Visiting North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Yong-Il, and his Burmese counterpart, Kyaw Thu, signed the agreement on Thursday.

Neither side has made any further comment.

Nuclear fears

Both countries are ruled by secretive, military regimes facing strong western pressure to loosen their grip on power, the BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says.

But the huge bomb attack at the Martyr's Mausoleum, near the famous Shwedagon pagoda, had until now kept them apart.

Map

The attack was aimed at South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan, who escaped. But 17 other South Koreans and four Burmese officials were killed.

Burma blamed North Korean commandos. One agent is still being held in Burma's Insein prison.

Now, it appears self-interest has brought the two countries back together, our correspondent says.

North Korea would benefit from Burma's natural resources, such as oil, gas and timber.

While Burma's rulers need access to military equipment, which has been blocked by US and European sanctions.

Its main supplier, China, has grown uneasy over the lack of dialogue between the Burmese junta and opposition groups, and Pyongyang's artillery and surface-to-air missiles would enhance the army's capabilities, our correspondent says.

While there are inevitably fears that Burma might want access to North Korea's nuclear technology, it is still a long way from establishing its own nuclear industry, he adds.

More plausibly, Burma may want to borrow some of Pyongyang's sophisticated tunnelling techniques to help further fortify their military complex in the new capital Naypyidaw.




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